Only Now, at the End, Do You Understand
In the wake of a new movie, it’s not surprising that we’d return to our favorite franchise not only in film, but through video games as well. Star Wars games have been few and far between in the last ten years, so why not come in with a bang with a truly revolutionary game? The seamless blend of beautiful console mechanics, mixed with the subtle annoyances of mobile gaming, makes this truly a game changer. Just…not the change you wanted.
The last game in the series was released in 2005, in concert with Revenge of the Sith. It offered dozens of maps, several game modes, online and offline multiplayer, and a single-player campaign. Wonky A.I. and decade-old graphics make the game seem out of date, but it remains a respectably immersive game to this day. Battlefront takes every aspect of that game and, essentially, does the opposite.
With a lack of campaign or galactic conquest, the game is reduced to a simple, round-by-round style of play. However the lack of playlist-style instant action means you need to keep playing the same thing over and over, then move on to the next round when you get bored. This, too, is limited by how you are playing. Offline modes don’t feature all kinds of gameplay…certain modes are online only, so you’ll need to log on and find a server. This lack of functionality, however, is small and could be made up for by excellent gameplay.
Unfortunately, the game doesn’t excel in that area either. Each game mode is essentially the same thing…shoot to kill, nonstop. Sure, there may be drop pods to defend, heroes to protect, or waves to stave off, but every game boils down to essentially the same thing. Ariel battles, likewise, are just shooters with an extended third dimension. There’s very little strategy to the game; no checkpoints to claim or manage, no flagships to sabotage, no clever ways of weakening the enemy…just wholesale slaughter.
And I’m not being naive here…I know that’s the point of a first person shooter. At the end of this day, this is a war game with Sci-Fi paint. The problem is that, despite having a whole universe of creative elements at the ready, the game takes little advantage of them. With the exception of AT-AT/Snowspeeder battles, everything in this game can be found in any other first person shooter. Sub out some skins and sound effects and this is no different than anything else already in the market. And that’s one of the big problems here…this is just a middling first person shooter.
DICE, by their own admission, provided gamers with a shallow game and it’s clear they hoped the Star Wars backdrop would be enough to fill in the gaps. There’s no depth, there’s no creativity, there’s essentially no variety but there’s TIE Fighters and AT-ST’s and Admiral Ackbar, so that’s something, right? Well, unfortunately, no. The underwhelming gameplay is only mildly mitigated by the familiar iconography of the Star Wars universe.
Luckily, that is the one thing the game ultimately gets right…the sights, the sounds, the environment…they all scream “Classic Star Wars.” As monotonous as the gameplay is, it’s hard to not crack a smile when an X-Wing streaks across the sky firing those signature sounds. Although, when you blow part of your budget on visiting a desert to capture that desert look…it better look good.
Oh, and you can’t kill the Ewoks either, so, like, what’s the point?
These are all flaws of the game, from minor to major, but I haven’t mentioned the principle problem: this is, in many ways, a mobile game. In a way it’s scary just how shameless the game is when it comes to DLC. It’s a pay-to-play game in many regards, as the extra content, from powerful weapons to iconic skins to early map access, is ridiculous. The content-to-price ratio is unjustified in pretty much every way. I should add, before I go any further, that I got the PC version of the game on special discount AND did not purchase any DLC, and I’m not buying into it later, so I can sleep at night knowing that I, at bare minimum, didn’t feed the beast any more than I had to. The fact of the matter is, and Jeremy Jahns put it well, the core game is incomplete, and if you want to up your stats, customize your character, or get a complete experience, you have to pay up.
If you are a casual gamer, if you are Star Wars fan looking to spend an hour or so in the universe you love, if you don’t mind paying nearly $100 dollars for a product that is inferior to its ten year old predecessor, than go ahead and pick up the game. It’s not unpleasant to play once you get in the swing of things and, for an hour here or there, it can be fun. That’s how I plan to play it…when I’m in the Star Wars mood and want to fly and X-Wing for a bit or take down an AT-AT. But that’s all the game is really good for.
In the meantime, you can catch me in the Commonwealth Wasteland.
Alex Russo loves Star Wars more than he loves his family. You can read more of his insane ramblings on Twitter.